The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow. – Rupert Murdoch
In today’s speeding business environment, there’s no time for the ‘trickle-down’ process of communication of changes in strategy or objectives. Results must be obtained quickly. And quick results are only achieved when the entire organization is mobilized and focused on specific deliverables that relate directly to the new strategy. If the energy, enthusiasm, ideas and spirit of all employees can be released, it is amazing how quickly things change and results begin to happen, often extraordinary results!
The most effective means of capturing the hearts and minds of employees is to get them actively involved in the development and implementation process. Give them a voice, give them the accountability, give them recognition and feedback and they will propel your company forward. Revising the traditional change communication process from the usual one-way broadcast approach to a series of engaging dialogues is a major component of effective change implementation.
And it must be leader led! The senior team must facilitate and communicate in these workshops. It’s not the role of HR, the Communications department, or outside facilitators. It’s the most important role the senior team has – engaging and enrolling the entire organization in implementing the business strategy.
So why is most employee communication usually left to HR or the Communications Department? First, it’s bloody hard work. It takes time, it takes preparation, and it takes real listening (perhaps the hardest skill of all). And secondly, most senior executives are somewhat intimidated by the role of “facilitator”. It’s easy to stand up and give a PowerPoint show-and-tell presentation then ask for questions at the end (usually there are few because most of the audience is brain dead by that time).
It’s much more difficult to show up authentically, as a facilitator, and share your own insights and concerns about the plan and to engage employees in an honest dialogue about the future of the company. But be prepared, it may be hard work and takes some training, yet at the end of these workshops most senior managers leave the room feeling 10 ft tall and at the same time humbled by the wisdom and energy in the room.
Too often the communication program for strategy deployment involves video-taped messages from headquarters, e-mails, or a mention at the weekly management meeting. These often raise more questions than answers. And the biggest question of all, “what does this mean to me?”, rarely gets answered sufficiently to motivate people towards implementation. But with a little creativity it is relatively easy to make the communication process engaging and inspiring.
For example, at one large telecoms company, the IT group needed to shift the way they did software design, from the waterfall method to an “agile software” methodology in order to support the company’s strategy of being more customer driven. After nearly a year of putting in place skill training, CBT courses and a massive reorganization, morale and productivity had plummeted. The question being asked was; “how do we get people engaged to deliver on the new strategy?”
A quick assessment of the situation within the IT groups found much confusion and rumour about what was expected of them and how they were supposed to work. Rather than just reacting with, “we’ve told them a thousand times!”, the senior team decided to lead the change implementation process. They took the corporate strategy and built a series of compelling stories, each told by one of the senior executives, which put the entire change strategy into the words and world of IT. They even developed a “plan on a page” – the entire business strategy drawn out on a single page, with the role of IT featuring prominently. They then organized 1-day workshops for 100 employees at a time (they conducted 80 such workshops!) and facilitated an open, honest dialogue on the entire strategy change. They even brought in customers to talk with the group. Power points were banned in favour of dialogue! Interactive discussions replaced “executive presentations”.
The results? Besides the enthusiasm and renewed respect for management and the company, changes quickly began to come together and the next year IT delivered on all its major strategic commitments, and with a reduced headcount as well.
Tight Lines . . .